Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a moment to reflect on the life of the civil rights leader whose nonviolent activism and Christian values made America a better place. The Daily Signal spoke to his niece, Alveda King, about her uncle’s enduring legacy and her plans for honoring him. Listen to the interview on our podcast or read a lightly edited transcript below.
Rob Bluey: As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, how has your uncle shaped our culture in America on issues like civil rights and your own life?
Alveda King: Martin Luther King Jr. was born 90 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, as what was known as a Negro. And, of course, he grew up in a time when the South especially was segregated.
However, he was raised by parents—one whose grandparents were slaves and one whose grandparents were from Cork, Ireland. In that merit, they saw every human being as a person of worth and dignity, they raised all three of their children that way. One was my dad, Reverend A. D. King; my aunt, Christine King Farris; and Uncle M.L., Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That was his worldview from birth and he left as a legacy that same worldview.
Rachel del Guidice: Are there ways today that you think society and media or even others have misrepresented your uncles’ conviction on the civil rights issues?
King: Well, what has happened with my uncles’ legacy, they forget the spiritual aspect. And so as one who’s also a civil rights leader from the 20th century now to the 21st century—I was there and I marched and went to jail with those great leaders. I was a young lady, a teenage girl. However, I remember the prayer meetings, how often we came together and prayed. I remember that everything we did was founded on the Bible.
One of my favorite songs was: “Paul and Silas, were bound in jail. Had no money to pay their bail. Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.” Of course, the prize was the love of God toward all people and the salvation of humanity.
I believe that we have not given full credence to the spiritual aspect of the message of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which includes sanctity of life, procreative marriage, a man and a woman marrying with a commitment, if God wills, to birth and raise children in a healthy manner. Taking care of the least of these.
The poor will always be with us, but they should never be mistreated or abused, and we should help the least of these and help all human beings. There are sins we know now and can call “crimes against humanity,” for instance: sex trafficking, abortion, mistreatment of the homeless, all these types of things. Of course, that would not have been what Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted us to do to each other.
One of his famous quotes, “We must learn to live together as brothers,” and I’ll add, “as sisters—or perish together as fools.” He fully understood Acts 17:26: “Of one blood, God created the human race.” We’re not separate races and we’re designed to love each other.
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